LEN PHELAN reports on a group of Yorkshire artists on the offensive against neoliberalism
THE Fighting For Crumbs project, which takes place in Sheffield and Wakefield from August 8-13, is nothing if not timely.
It’s all about how art is struggling to survive in neoliberal Britain and it’s been put together by a group of artists who have had enough of austerity. They’ve come up with an exhibition featuring video, installation, 3D wall art, crafted art, paintings, photography, poetry and performance.
The project is the brainchild of John Ledger, who was asked to show his work as part of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the Red Shed in Wakefield, a thriving focus for radical art and performance.
Born out of the optimism of the 1960s, the club recognised the change in mood this century, so profoundly different to that of the post-war period.
“There has arisen a deep disbelief in the more constructive abilities of the human race,” Ledger says. “Maybe it comes from the fact that with what we now know there’s a sense that we should be in the process of building a far better world to live in. But, no. In 2016 we are scrapping amongst ourselves for pieces of barely anything.”
He’s brought together a group of artists to participate and the exhibition has rapidly expanded to include a video of their work and words.
The bulk of the show is on at Gage Gallery in Sheffield’s industrial hinterland and will explore the realities of austerity Britain and how the age of the “entrepreneur of the self” impacts upon creativity.
As one of the contributors, Corrine Deakin, says: “The idea of community is disintegrating as we are encouraged to evolve into self-absorbed, cut-throat individuals. Making a career for yourself is based more and more on who you know, not what you know.”
In Sheffield she’ll be creating installations with Ledger and the latter, who’s also exhibiting drawings at the Red Shed, is collaborating on a performance work with poet Jonathan Butcher.
Another artist exploring the conflict between economic survival and artistic expression is textile artist Rebekah Whitlam, while John Wilkinson is displaying a number of his urban/industrial expressionist paintings. His work, he says, “expresses my compassion for a people who built the foundations of our world and will be left to rot in its basements until we can see what is happening and demand better. Then I’ll paint pretty landscapes.”
Also on show will be Connor Matheson’s social-realist photography, which has a specific focus on the north of England.
“This project is an accurate representation of working-class culture, depicting the everyday lives of people who are often vilified in the mainstream press as ‘scroungers’ or ‘yobs’,” he says.
Performance artist Nick Kilby will be performing a new piece specially written for the show at the closing of the project and it goes without saying that it’s one which readers of this paper will surely want to support.
Fighting For Crumbs: Art in the Shadow of Neoliberal Britain launches at 6.30pm on August 8 at Gage Gallery, 40 Ball Street, Sheffield, with a performance event closing the show at 7pm on August 12. The Wakefield event takes place at the Red Shed, 18 Vicarage Street, on August 13 from 1pm and includes the Fighting For Crumbs video and Invisible Britain, the Sleaford Mods documentary, plus a talk by author JD Taylor.